For The Truth

Friday, April 07, 2006

Sola Scriptura, the ECM and some thoughts

The following is excerpted (I cut off some of the front & the back) from comments by Carla Rolfe at in response to the many and varied (and some apparently not so nice) comments elicited by a question she had posted earlier asking “Sola Scriptura and the ECM – where do you stand?” To see it all in her own words, checkout her blog.

Sola Scriptura is not dependancy on the Scriptures and nothing else. Holding to Sola Scriptura does not mean we ignore what has been taught through church history, or what's being taught now. It does not mean we don't listen to Bible study teachers, or pastors, or lecturers. It also does not mean that we ignore what some might call our gut instinct, or feeling, or convictions about a teaching.What it does mean, is that all of those things; church history/tradition, teachers, preachers, authors, friends, feelings, experience, etc., must all be subject to the final authority of the written word.I believe when we treat the written word of God as an authority, rather than the authority, we're already on very dangerous ground. If the Bible is just another source of truth among many, that means there are many other truths out there outside of Scripture. If we feel or believe there are other truths out there that lead us into "genuine Christian living" then we're wide open to the teachings of other religions, other spiritual teachings, feelings, ideas, etc., that are not to be found in Scripture at all. I believe God is quite particular about what is acceptable to Him in the form of worship and Christian living, and what is without question, unacceptable.Followed out to it's logical conclusion, if the Bible is seen as just another source of truth rather than the ultimate source of truth, then what a person will end up with is a very genuine and very authentic "spiritual" life, but a very unbiblical one. They might be sincere, but they will also be sincerely mislead and sincerely deceived.What came to mind this morning was the dynamic of a family. Both mother and father are authority figures in the eyes of the children but in a family living according to the Biblical role, the father is the one in the family with the final say-so. If a child in that family has a request and mom says yes, but dad says no - then that's the final answer. The end of the road is with dad. This does not negate the mom's authority in any way, but it does mean there is an authority in that family higher than her.As with all analogies this one is likely full of holes, but I will only hope the point is made clear.One of the other very good questions that was raised in the comment thread of this question, was about interpretation. One may say he holds to Sola Scriptura, as well as another, but both may interpret the Scriptures to say something completely different than the other one. While this is obviously an issue that should be worked out with ample study and prayer, I honestly don't think it's as much of an issue as flat out rejecting Sola Scriptura in the first place. At least with interpretation issues, folks are still eager to turn to the Scriptures for their answers, rather than seek answers (and the wisdom) of men.Much was said in that thread about church traditions. Traditions are great and we've all got them. Family traditions, personal ones, company tradtions, etc. Church traditions are all well and good, as long as they can be measured according to Scripture, and found to hold up. For example, if your church routinely has a fellowship lunch after the Sunday service on the last day of the month, and you're running around saying it's Biblical, you're wrong. You wont find a dogmatic teaching on that anywhere in Scripture. However, is it wrong to have your fellowship lunch and still say you hold to Sola Scriptura? Of course it's not wrong - in fact they're great fun. But they are not mandated or expressly forbidden in Scripture, either way. The same can be said for birthdays, celebrating Christmas (I'm not about to go into all the arguments on that one), or even having Sunday evening service on the lawn behind the church. We do need to remember that part of our liberty in Christ (freed from the bonds of sin) is to truly enjoy life as a child of God, and not get caught up in our traditions as if they are iron-clad rules of Scripture.By the same token, there are in fact many church traditions/teachings that are carried out to this very day that are in fact expressly forbidden or contradicted by Scripture. Icon worship, prayers to dead saints (and that includes Mary the mother of Jesus), works plus grace, mindless repetative prayers, or mixing pagan religion with Christian worship. Trust me, this is likely the shortest list of unbiblical church tradtions that you'll ever read. I'm being brief to simply make the point that interpreting the Bible through these traditions is a HUGE mistake.A friend of mine's pastor once said something that really nailed it for him, and has stuck with me ever since he told me what his pastor said:"The Bible will shed a lot of light on a commentary".While commentaries are great, and I use them myself, they're not always right. Neither are church traditions, the writings of early church fathers, my feelings, your feelings or anyone's pastor.When I read why some of you have rejected Sola Scriptura, it actually makes a lot more sense why you'd be interested in some of the teachings coming out of the ECM movement. It makes more sense why postmodern philosophies appeal to you, even though you may not see yourself at all as a postmodernist.There is an old game called Jenga, that some of you may be familiar with. In the game of Jenga, if you pull out the wrong piece of wood, the entire structure falls apart - game pieces go flying everywhere and you've actually lost the game. All because you pulled out the one piece of wood that was holding up everything else.To me, that's what happens when the Bible is tossed aside as the final authority in a Christian's life. Discernment, prayer, wisdom, worship, study, influences, being circumspect... all of those things go flying in different directions and the foundation is wasted. How can there ever be clarity, assurance, and a solid faith, with so many different sources of authority, that in many cases contradict one another? The answer is simple, there can't be. And the result, is the very prevelant ambiguity associated with the EC. It's no accident that so many in the EC don't seem to have any "solid answers" for so many things, one way or the other. How can they, especially if they don't have one final source of authority that spells the answers out so clearly?

SDG - Carla Rolfe

Amen, and thank you Carla.


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